New technology designed to reduce mercury emissions funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) is being tested by URS Group from Austin, Texas at two US power stations. The testing project, which will cost almost $1.2 million, involves mercury control technology known as mercury catalytic oxidation.

URS Group was awarded almost $900,000 in funding from the DOE. EPRI, the North Dakota Industrial Commission and Great River Energy also are providing funding for the research project.

In its latest round of funding, DOE provided nearly $8 million for six new projects to develop innovative technologies to reduce mercury emissions from coal plants more effectively.

A smaller scale and shorter duration project was conducted at one of the two chosen power plants, Coal Creek Station, North Dakota, late last year. The initial testing suggested that the process works and the new study will evaluate the effectiveness of different catalysts to determine which offer the best economics.

The mercury catalytic oxidation process converts elemental mercury found in the flue gas at Coal Creek Station into soluble oxidized mercury, which can be removed by the plants’ existing sulphur dioxide scrubbers. The one-year test will determine the effectiveness and life of various catalyst materials.

The challenge of reducing mercury emissions from power plants is that no uniform method of technology exists. Current pollution controls were designed for other pollutants, and their effectiveness in reducing mercury emissions can vary from boiler to boiler. Depending upon the power plant, reduction levels can range from 90 per cent to zero.

Coal Creek power station is owned and operated by Great River Energy. A spokesman for the electricity wholesaler said, “Great River Energy believes that taking care of the environment makes good business sense and the organization had reduced the use of mercury in its operations.” He said “This study focuses on just one of the promising technologies Great River Energy is looking at for potentially controlling mercury emissions”.